Chelsea Green Publishing

Thinking in Systems

Pages:240 pages
Book Art:Black and white diagrams
Size: 6 x 9 inch
Publisher:Chelsea Green Publishing
Paperback: 9781603580557
Pub. Date December 03, 2008

Thinking in Systems

A Primer

Availability: In Stock

Paperback

Available Date:
December 03, 2008

$19.95

In the years following her role as the lead author of the international bestseller, Limits to Growth—the first book to show the consequences of unchecked growth on a finite planet— Donella Meadows remained a pioneer of environmental and social analysis until her untimely death in 2001.

Thinking in Systems, is a concise and crucial book offering insight for problem solving on scales ranging from the personal to the global. Edited by the Sustainability Institute’s Diana Wright, this essential primer brings systems thinking out of the realm of computers and equations and into the tangible world, showing readers how to develop the systems-thinking skills that thought leaders across the globe consider critical for 21st-century life.

Some of the biggest problems facing the world—war, hunger, poverty, and environmental degradation—are essentially system failures. They cannot be solved by fixing one piece in isolation from the others, because even seemingly minor details have enormous power to undermine the best efforts of too-narrow thinking.

While readers will learn the conceptual tools and methods of systems thinking, the heart of the book is grander than methodology. Donella Meadows was known as much for nurturing positive outcomes as she was for delving into the science behind global dilemmas. She reminds readers to pay attention to what is important, not just what is quantifiable, to stay humble, and to stay a learner.

In a world growing ever more complicated, crowded, and interdependent, Thinking in Systems helps readers avoid confusion and helplessness, the first step toward finding proactive and effective solutions.

REVIEWS AND PRAISE

"When I read Thinking in Systems I am reminded of the enormity of the gap between systemic thinkers and policy makers. If this book helps narrow the gap, it will be Dana's greatest contribution."--Lester Brown, founder and President, Earth Policy Institute

"Dana Meadows' exposition in this book exhibits a degree of clarity and simplicity that can only be attained by one who profoundly and honestly understands the subject at hand--in this case systems modeling. Many thanks to Diana Wright for bringing this extra legacy from Dana to us."--Herman Daly, Professor, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland at College Park

"Reading Thinking in Systems evokes the wisdom and even the voice of Dana Meadows. We are reminded of how she was not only one of the great systems thinkers, but also one of our greatest teachers. This is modestly called a primer, and indeed it is, but unlike most books with that title, this one quickly takes one from the elementary into deep systems thinking about issues as critical today as they were when Dana wrote these words. The discussion of oil use and the interaction of its extraction pattern with economic decision making should be required reading for all energy policy makers and energy company executives (as well as all informed citizens in a democracy). The fisheries case reminds us of how little any government or private actor has done to grasp the importance of takeout flows in determining stocks when the input flows are not within our control. The commentary on economics and, yes the need to consider limits, is a clear systems statement that clarifies a great deal of discussion that goes back to The Limits to Growth.

It is remarkable that Dana is able to explain with such clarity such systems concepts of stocks, flows, feedback, time delays, resilience, bounded rationality, and system boundaries and to illustrate each one with multiple informative examples. Her statement that goals that optimize subsystems will sub optimize the functioning of the total system, is truly profound. As the book moves from the 'mechanics' of systems dynamics to Dana's more philosophical perspective, we are treated to her inherent belief in human values that consider the good of all, and how much more effective considering the needs of others is likely to be in solving larger, complex problems. The universe and our society may be very complex and operate in counterintuitive, non-liner fashion, but following the insights of this book and applying them will provide for far more effective solutions to the challenges of a 7 billion person planet than current incremental, linear responses by governments, corporations and individuals."--Bill Moomaw, Professor of International Environmental Policy at the Fletcher School, Tufts University

"In Dana Meadows's brilliantly integrative worldview, everything causes everything else; cause and effect loop back on themselves. She was the clearest thinker and writer co-creating the art and science of systems dynamics, and Thinking in Systems distills her lifetime of wisdom. This clear, fun-to-read synthesis will help diverse readers everywhere to grasp and harness how our complex world really works."--Amory B. Lovins, Chairman and Chief Scientist, Rocky Mountain Institute

"Dana Meadows taught a generation of students, friends, and colleagues the art and science of thinking beyond conventional boundaries. For her systems thinking included the expected things like recognizing patterns, connections, leverage points, feedback loops and also the human qualities of judgment, foresight, and kindness. She was a teacher with insight and heart. This long anticipated book, the distillation of her life's work, is a gem."--David Orr, Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics, Oberlin College

"The publication of Thinking in Systems is a landmark. To live sustainably on our planet, we must learn to understand human-environment interactions as complex systems marked by the impact of human actions, the prominence of nonlinear change, the importance of initial conditions, and the significance of emergent properties. Dana Meadows' final contribution is the best and most accessible introduction to this way of thinking we have. This book is destined to shape our understanding of socio-ecological systems in the years to come in much the same way that Silent Spring taught us to understand the nature of ecosystems in the 1960s and 1970s."--Oran R. Young, Professor, Donald Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at University of California, Santa Barbara

"Thinking in Systems is required reading for anyone hoping to run a successful company, community, or country. Learning how to think in systems is now part of change-agent literacy. And this is the best book of its kind."--Hunter Lovins, founder and President of Natural Capital Solutions and coauthor of Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution

"Dana Meadows was one of the smartest people I ever knew, able to figure out the sensible answer to almost any problem. This book explains how she thought, and hence is of immense value to those of us who often wonder what she'd make of some new problem. A classic."--Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy

"An inspiring sequel to Dana Meadows' lifetime of seminal contributions to systems thinking, this highly accessible book should be read by everyone concerned with the world's future and how we can make it as good as it possibly can be."--Peter H. Raven, President, Missouri Botanical Garden

"Few matched Dana Meadows remarkable blend of eloquence and clarity in making systems thinking understandable. When Dana began her career, the field was esoteric and academic. Today it is the sine quo non for intelligent action in business and society. The publication of Meadows' previously unfinished manuscript is a gift for leaders of all sorts and at all levels."--Peter M. Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline and The Necessary Revolution

Publishers Weekly, Starred Review-
Just before her death, scientist, farmer and leading environmentalist Meadows (1941-2001) completed an updated, 30th anniversary edition of her influential 1972 environmental call to action, Limits to Growth, as well as a draft of this book, in which she explains the methodology-systems analysis-she used in her ground-breaking work, and how it can be implemented for large-scale and individual problem solving. With humorous and commonplace examples for difficult concepts such as a "reinforcing feedback loop," (the more one brother pushes, the more the other brother pushes back), negative feedback (as in thermostats), accounting for delayed response (like in maintaining store inventory), Meadows leads readers through the increasingly complex ways that feedback loops operate to create self-organizing systems, in nature ("from viruses to redwood trees") and human endeavor. Further, Meadows explicates methods for fixing systems that have gone haywire ("The world's leaders are correctly fixated on economic growth ...but they're pushing with all their might in the wrong direction"). An invaluable companion piece to Limits to Growth, this is also a useful standalone overview of systems-based problem solving, "a simple book about a complex world" graced by the wisdom of a profound thinker committed to "shaping a better future.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Donella Meadows

A woman whose pioneering work in the 1970s still makes front-page news, Donella Meadows was a scientist, author, teacher, and farmer widely considered ahead of her time. She was one of the world's foremost systems analysts and lead author of the influential Limits to Growth--the 1972 book on global trends in population, economics, and the environment that was translated into 28 languages and became an international bestseller. That book launched a worldwide debate on the earth's capacity to withstand constant human development and expansion. Twenty years later, she and co-authors Dennis Meadows and Jorgen Randers reported on their follow-up study in Beyond the Limits and a final revision of their research, Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update, was published in 2004.

Diana Wright

ALSO BY THIS AUTHOR

Limits to Growth

Limits to Growth

By Donella Meadows and Jorgen Randers and Dennis Meadows

In 1972, three scientists from MIT created a computer model that analyzed global resource consumption and production. Their results shocked the world and created stirring conversation about global 'overshoot,' or resource use beyond the carrying capacity of the planet. Now, preeminent environmental scientists Donnella Meadows, Jorgen Randers, and Dennis Meadows have teamed up again to update and expand their original findings in The Limits to Growth: The 30 Year Global Update.

Meadows, Randers, and Meadows are international environmental leaders recognized for their groundbreaking research into early signs of wear on the planet. Citing climate change as the most tangible example of our current overshoot, the scientists now provide us with an updated scenario and a plan to reduce our needs to meet the carrying capacity of the planet.

Over the past three decades, population growth and global warming have forged on with a striking semblance to the scenarios laid out by the World3 computer model in the original Limits to Growth. While Meadows, Randers, and Meadows do not make a practice of predicting future environmental degradation, they offer an analysis of present and future trends in resource use, and assess a variety of possible outcomes.

In many ways, the message contained in Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update is a warning. Overshoot cannot be sustained without collapse. But, as the authors are careful to point out, there is reason to believe that humanity can still reverse some of its damage to Earth if it takes appropriate measures to reduce inefficiency and waste.

Written in refreshingly accessible prose, Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update is a long anticipated revival of some of the original voices in the growing chorus of sustainability. Limits to Growth: The 30 Year Update is a work of stunning intelligence that will expose for humanity the hazy but critical line between human growth and human development.

Available in: Paperback

Read More

Limits to Growth

Donella Meadows, Jorgen Randers, Dennis Meadows

Paperback $22.50

AUTHOR VIDEOS

John Kress - Perspectives on Limits to Growth: Challenges to Building a Sustainable Planet

John Kress - Perspectives on Limits to Growth: Challenges to Building a Sustainable Planet

Growth vs. Development

Growth vs. Development

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

The World According to Monsanto (DVD)

The World According to Monsanto (DVD)

By Marie-Monique Robin

Monsanto's controversial past combines some of the most toxic products ever sold with misleading reports, pressure tactics, collusion, and attempted corruption. They now race to genetically engineer (and patent) the world's food supply, which profoundly threatens our health, environment, and economy. Combining secret documents with first-hand accounts by victims, scientists, and politicians, this widely praised film exposes why Monsanto has become the world's poster child for malignant corporate influence in government and technology.

Also on the DVD:
Your Milk on Drugs—Just Say No!, A film by Jeffrey M. Smith

Dairy products from cows treated with Monsanto's genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (rBGH or rBST) may sharply increase cancer risk and other diseases, especially in children. Already banned in most industrialized nations, it was approved in the U.S. on the backs of fired whistleblowers, manipulated research, and a corporate takeover at the FDA. This must-see film includes footage prepared for a Fox TV station—canceled after a letter from Monsanto's attorney threatened "dire consequences."

Bonus CD:
"Don't Put That in Your Mouth," a speech by Jeffrey M. Smith

You'll want to stop eating genetically modified foods after you learn how they're linked to toxic and allergic reactions; sick, sterile, and dead livestock; and damage to virtually every organ studied in lab animals.

Available in: DVD

Read More

The World According to Monsanto (DVD)

Marie-Monique Robin, Jeffrey M. Smith

DVD $19.95

Extracted

Extracted

By Ugo Bardi

As we dig, drill, and excavate to unearth the planet’s mineral bounty, the resources we exploit from ores, veins, seams, and wells are gradually becoming exhausted. Mineral treasures that took millions, or even billions, of years to form are now being squandered in just centuries–or sometimes just decades.

Will there come a time when we actually run out of minerals? Debates already soar over how we are going to obtain energy without oil, coal, and gas. But what about the other mineral losses we face? Without metals, and semiconductors, how are we going to keep our industrial system running? Without mineral fertilizers and fuels, how are we going to produce the food we need?

Ugo Bardi delivers a sweeping history of the mining industry, starting with its humble beginning when our early ancestors started digging underground to find the stones they needed for their tools. He traces the links between mineral riches and empires, wars, and civilizations, and shows how mining in its various forms came to be one of the largest global industries. He also illustrates how the gigantic mining machine is now starting to show signs of difficulties. The easy mineral resources, the least expensive to extract and process, have been mostly exploited and depleted. There are plenty of minerals left to extract, but at higher costs and with increasing difficulties.

The effects of depletion take different forms and one may be the economic crisis that is gripping the world system. And depletion is not the only problem. Mining has a dark side–pollution–that takes many forms and delivers many consequences, including climate change. 

The world we have been accustomed to, so far, was based on cheap mineral resources and on the ability of the ecosystem to absorb pollution without generating damage to human beings. Both conditions are rapidly disappearing. Having thoroughly plundered planet Earth, we are entering a new world.

Bardi draws upon the world’s leading minerals experts to offer a compelling glimpse into that new world ahead.

Available in: Paperback

Read More

Extracted

Ugo Bardi, Jorgen Randers

Paperback $24.95

Sowing Seeds in the Desert

Sowing Seeds in the Desert

By Masanobu Fukuoka

The earth is in great peril, due to the corporatization of agriculture, the rising climate crisis, and the ever-increasing levels of global poverty, starvation, and desertification on a massive scale. This present condition of global trauma is not "natural," but a result of humanity's destructive actions. And, according to Masanobu Fukuoka, it is reversible. We need to change not only our methods of earth stewardship, but also the very way we think about the relationship between human beings and nature.

Fukuoka grew up on a farm on the island of Shikoku in Japan. As a young man he worked as a customs inspector for plants going into and out of the country. This was in the 1930s when science seemed poised to create a new world of abundance and leisure, when people fully believed they could improve upon nature by applying scientific methods and thereby reap untold rewards. While working there, Fukuoka had an insight that changed his life forever. He returned to his home village and applied this insight to developing a revolutionary new way of farming that he believed would be of great benefit to society. This method, which he called "natural farming," involved working with, not in opposition to, nature.

Fukuoka's inspiring and internationally best-selling book, The One-Straw Revolution was first published in English in 1978. In this book, Fukuoka described his philosophy of natural farming and why he came to farm the way he did. One-Straw was a huge success in the West, and spoke directly to the growing movement of organic farmers and activists seeking a new way of life. For years after its publication, Fukuoka traveled around the world spreading his teachings and developing a devoted following of farmers seeking to get closer to the truth of nature.

Sowing Seeds in the Desert, a summation of those years of travel and research, is Fukuoka's last major work-and perhaps his most important. Fukuoka spent years working with people and organizations in Africa, India, Southeast Asia, Europe, and the United States, to prove that you could, indeed, grow food and regenerate forests with very little irrigation in the most desolate of places. Only by greening the desert, he said, would the world ever achieve true food security.

This revolutionary book presents Fukuoka's plan to rehabilitate the deserts of the world using natural farming, including practical solutions for feeding a growing human population, rehabilitating damaged landscapes, reversing the spread of desertification, and providing a deep understanding of the relationship between human beings and nature. Fukuoka's message comes right at the time when people around the world seem to have lost their frame of reference, and offers us a way forward.

Available in: Paperback

Read More

Sowing Seeds in the Desert

Masanobu Fukuoka, Larry Korn

Paperback $15.95

The Organic Seed Grower

The Organic Seed Grower

By John Navazio

The Organic Seed Grower is a comprehensive manual for the serious vegetable grower who is interested in growing high-quality seeds using organic farming practices. It is written for both serious home seed savers and diversified small-scale farmers who want to learn the necessary steps involved in successfully producing a commercial seed crop organically.

Detailed profiles for each of the major vegetables provide users with practical, in-depth knowledge about growing, harvesting, and processing seed for a wide range of common and specialty vegetable crops, from Asian greens to zucchini.

In addition, readers will find extensive and critical information on topics including:

  • The reproductive biology of crop plants
  • Annual vs. biennial seed crops
  • Isolation distances needed to ensure varietal purity
  • Maintaining adequate population size for genetic integrity
  • Seed crop climates
  • Seed-borne diseases
  • Seed-cleaning basics
  • Seed storage for farmers
  • and more . . .

This book can serve as a bridge to lead skilled gardeners, who are already saving their own seed, into the idea of growing seed commercially. And for diversified vegetable farmers who are growing a seed crop for sale for the first time, it will provide details on many of the tricks of the trade that are used by professional seed growers. This manual will help the budding seed farmer to become more knowledgeable, efficient, and effective in producing a commercially viable seed crop.

With the strong demand for certified organic produce, many regional seed companies are increasingly seeking out dedicated seed growers to ensure a reliable source of organically grown seeds for their farmer and gardener customers. This trend represents a great business opportunity for small-scale commercial growers who wish to raise and sell vegetable seeds as a profitable part of their diversified small-farm operation. Written by well-known plant breeder and organic seed expert John Navazio, The Organic Seed Grower is the most up-to-date and useful guide to best practices in this exciting and important field.

Available in: Hardcover

Read More

The Organic Seed Grower

John Navazio

Hardcover $49.95